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Rockies face big decision on lefty Rosscup

Reliever out of options; Marquez settles down after 1st
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

TEMPE, Ariz. -- One of the Rockies' biggest Opening Day roster decisions centers on left-handed relief pitcher Zac Rosscup, who is out of Minor League options.

Rosscup, 29, profiles as a lefty specialist. Left-handed hitters went 0-for-15 against him last season and they're 1-for-5 this spring. He wanted to prove this spring that he can handle right-handers, but so far they're 7-for-12 (.412) with an .882 slugging percentage against him.

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- One of the Rockies' biggest Opening Day roster decisions centers on left-handed relief pitcher Zac Rosscup, who is out of Minor League options.

Rosscup, 29, profiles as a lefty specialist. Left-handed hitters went 0-for-15 against him last season and they're 1-for-5 this spring. He wanted to prove this spring that he can handle right-handers, but so far they're 7-for-12 (.412) with an .882 slugging percentage against him.

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• LeMahieu's swing not missing much in spring

On one hand, he is a fit. The Rockies will carry three other lefties: multi-inning, multi-role man Chris Rusin and setup men Mike Dunn and Jake McGee. But with the others able to face righties, there could be a spot for a specialist.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Since being out of options means Rosscup would have to be exposed to other teams via waivers to be sent to Triple-A -- at a time when teams are likely combing the wires for lefty help -- there is reason to hold onto him.

However, Jairo Diaz didn't give up a spring run until Justin Upton 's solo homer and Zack Cozart's RBI double in Friday's 18-6 win over the Angels, but before then struck out five and gave up one hit in five innings. Carlos Estevez -- trusted in late innings during last year's run to the postseason -- could soon pitch in the Cactus League after suffering a left oblique injury early in camp.

The issue touches all aspects of tough roster choices -- need, performance and depth-building. Diaz and Estevez each have options, so keeping Rosscup means all the pitchers are at the Rockies' disposal.

Marquez regroups and finds his pitches
After giving up six runs in eight hits in 2 1/3 innings against the Dodgers in his last start, righty German Marquez coughed up a Kole Calhoun two-run shot and balked in another run during a three-run Angels first. But he gave up no more runs, and struck out five in 3 1/3 innings.

"I feel it and I can do it," Marquez said. "I've got to change my mind, quick.

"I worked on my slider, and today it was good. And my changeup was really good, too -- it's really close."

The changeup is a new pitch, which he is adding to an upper-90s fastball, curve and slider.

Manager Bud Black is happy to see Marquez move forward with his changeup. Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela also are working on changeups.

"This pitch is a little bit harder to learn than others; it takes awhile to feel comfortable and confident with the change," Black said. "So I'm glad these guys are using it in the game, get a little bit better feel for it."

It's (still) Spring Training
Ian Desmond entered Friday 3-for-31 with 16 strikeouts, sparking concern not from himself or Black but maybe from fans reading the stats as tea leaves. In that vein, he might have alleviated some concern in the second inning, when he pulled two home runs to left field -- first off Shohei Ohtani, then off Tyler Warmoth. A result of the adjustment would be the ability to make contact farther out front so he can lift and pull them.

Video: COL@LAA: Desmond hits a pair of solo shots in the 2nd

3-0? Take your hacks
Last year, the Rockies swung at just nine 3-0 pitches all season and were 0-for-4, according to Statcast™. Middle-of-the-pack among teams was 26 swings at 3-0 pitches, and the Dodgers led the Majors with 58. Considering that half the teams in baseball hit .295 or above, and 17 teams slugged at over .500 when all pitches in that count were accumulated, the Rockies might have stood to be more aggressive. Colorado hit just .232 (third-worst in the Majors) and slugged .427 (tied for fourth-worst) after 3-0 counts.

On Friday, they hacked.

Nolan Arenado cut at a 3-0 Ohtani pitch with two on, fouled off the next, then blasted a three-run homer in the second. In the fourth, Gerardo Parra smacked a two-run shot off Cam Bedrosian.

Video: COL@LAA: Parra drives a two-run homer to right field

"We've been talking about it as a group," Arenado said. "It's mostly just to work on it -- 3-0, there's a good chance he's going to throw something over the plate. We're just trying to work on getting our timing down, and that's what it's all about. I don't think we're really worried about popping it up."

It's not as if the Rockies were ordering hitters to keep the bat on the shoulder and give pitchers a free strike at 3-0.

"Last year, you'd be surprised; we had the 3-0 swing on a lot, and our guys didn't swing," Black said. "There's a comfort factor there, and to feel good about it if you make an out, as long as you get your swing off and you swing at a good pitch. That's something we're talking about as a group offensively."

Hilliard homers
Outfielder Sam Hilliard, the Rockies' No. 12 prospect, came off the bench and hit his second spring homer, a three-run shot in Friday's win. The runners on base when he hit it were Brendan Rodgers and Ryan McMahon, the club's Nos. 1 and 2 prospects, respectively.  

Video: COL@LAA: Hilliard smashes a three-run homer to right

Pacing the closer
In an effort to build up new closer Wade Davis, the Rockies have pitched him the last two days. After giving up two runs to the Angels on Thursday, he faced three batters on a back-field game Friday. He gave up an infield hit (the runner was caught stealing second), forced a groundout to second and hit a batter.

Up next
Righty Antonio Senzatela (2-1, 2.08 ERA in four games, one start), hoping to burst into the season-opening rotation, will start on Saturday against the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix at 2:05 p.m. MT. The game can be heard on Gameday Audio. Righty Chad Bettis, whose turn also is Saturday, will pitch in a back-field game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies